Well, you didn't come here to read what I think. Let's dive right in.
James Szuba: What's your assessment of Syracuse? How much have you seen of the team?
Chip Patterson: I sensed there was a quiet confidence with this Syracuse team at the ACC's kickoff in late October. Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney were loose, and weren't getting much attention for their on-court projections as much as their reaction to Jim Boeheim's suspension. Still, when it came to on-court topics, Gbinije was clear this could be a really good team, and that notion was affirmed in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
As the season has unfolded, a few things come to mind. Like many teams in the ACC, Syracuse is extremely limited with its rotation which makes foul trouble or matchup problems even more damning in the midst of a game. Malachi Richardson is awesome, and while the freshman class as a whole might be struggling to have the impact of a year ago I think he's easily one of the three or four best rookies in the league. And speaking of rookies, Tyler Lydon, I'm assuming a player with no plans to leave after 2016, is going to be a problem in the future.
JS: Have you had the chance to cover any Syracuse games this year?
CP: I haven't had a chance to cover Cuse in person yet, mostly reacting to games from other games or my home hoops complex. I also cover college football for CBS, so it's a bit of a spring to switch gears and catch up for the final grind.
JS: What sticks out most to you, Syracuse's key wins (Texas A&M, UConn, Duke, Notre Dame) or bad losses (Wisconsin, St. John's)?
CP: Syracuse's key wins (Texas A&M, Duke, Notre Dame) stick out way more than the bad losses, but ultimately I think the team's eventual NCAA Tournament outcome will be dependent on getting back after some of the not-so-bad losses in conference play between now and the tournament. The Pitt home game and maybe even both of the FSU games need to be wins, along with VT, Boston College and NC State (11-7 or better if all wins). An upset against UNC or Louisville would be gravy, but continuing the consistency of this current run seems like the defining moment for Syracuse in 2016.
JS: If you were on the selection committee would you have Syracuse in the field and why?
CP: Right now, I've got Syracuse, Florida State and Clemson in the mix for what would be (in my projection) bids No. 8/or No.9 for the ACC. Again, Syracuse's upcoming home-and-home with FSU is huuuuuge.
JS: Give me a #HotTake on Trevor Cooney or a Syracuse player of your preference.
CP: An aggressive (in a smart way) and assertive Tyler Roberson makes Syracuse the best version of itself. Roberson's 20-rebound night at Duke was an "a-ha!" moment for me and probably had all your readers claming that "it's about time." His ability to clean up on the offensive glass is so deflating against teams that, in particular, might not be used to Syracuse's pace. Nothing hurts your in-game confidence more than defending for most of the shot clock, forcing a miss and still giving up points.
JS: Lastly, where do you think Syracuse finishes at season's end?
CP: PREDICTION TIME! Give me Syracuse in the tournament as a 10-seed, destined for Brooklyn in the first round and lined up opposite a 2-seed Villanova team. Selection committee knows what they're doing...
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